Who Governs the 'Ungovernable'? Examining Governing Relations in Urban Informality [thesis]

Redento Recio
For several decades now, Metro Manila's Baclaran district has been home to thousands of street vendors who have capitalised on its functions as a commercial centre, a transport node, and a Filipino Catholic devotional site. This presence of informal hawkers, which some government officials consider as an urban blight, has generated a range of policies that seek to manage, if not eradicate, the informal hawkers. Years of street occupancy, however, have enabled the tenacious vendors to enforce
more » ... ndors to enforce grassroots mechanisms to appropriate streetscapes. I refer to this interplay of state interventions and grassroots practices as the formal-informal interface. Seen from an urban planning perspective, the Baclaran context offers an opportunity for scholarly inquiry into how the complex spatio-political ordering and socio-economic realities unsettle the essentialist formal-versus-informal categories of work and state interventions. Indeed, as many global South cities face poverty and unemployment, poor people continuously engage in informal economy. Over 50% of urban labour force in developing countries is informal and street vending is seen as the most visible informal livelihood. Despite the growing recognition of informality, it has often been linked to ungovernable practices. Ungovernability, however, is never devoid of state intervention. The literature shows how state institutions use formal and informal approaches to manage livelihoods like street vending. Yet, there is limited empirical research that investigates the formal-informal interface in governing and appropriating contested vending spaces. My thesis addresses this gap. Building on a combination of theories from planning, sociology, and political science, I problematize the question 'How can the interface of formal systems and informal mechanisms to govern and appropriate contested vending spaces be explained?' Employing documentary review, observation, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and life-history accounts in gathering data, this qualitative research focuses on street vending in Baclaran, one of the Philippines' largest informal hawking districts. In this thesis I argue, first, that understanding the formal-informal interface in contested vending spaces requires situating the location of informal vending in the broader historical, spatial, political and economic trajectories of the surrounding environment. Second, problematizing the formal-informal interface demands what I call a post-dualist lens. Postdualist lens contends that structural factors and agency expressions underpin the formal
doi:10.14264/uql.2018.360 fatcat:bdibxle5ibeirexwfu4ouoqcpa